When I first started mountain biking, we didn’t have smartphones. No GPS. In fact, I rode and raced without a bike computer and only a heart rate monitor watch for years. I would ask at each aid station what mile I was at in the race. Trail riding in the mountains could be intimidating because the only way to navigate was with a paper map. I started traveling the USA with my job in 2009 and would go for local rides. At this point, I had a smartphone, but it still didn’t give me much information about trails or better yet, where I was at on the trail. There were times where I’d accidentally go off course in races either because my head was down or a course was poorly marked.
Technology has come so far. We are lucky to know what life was like without computers, phones, internet, GPS because now we can appreciate having it. Remember Mapquest? I remember when that was a big deal!
One of the reasons people are afraid to venture off into new terrain on a mountain bike was fear of getting lost or simply just not knowing what route to take. With Strava and other programs that map peoples’ rides, we can get all kinds of stats like ride length, elevation gain, route, and more. While there are many, many features of my cycling computer that I love and use, one that is invaluable is the GPS function. I am currently using the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT or ELEMNT Bolt. The ELEMNT has a bigger screen so it’s ideal if you’re doing a ride in the backcountry. If you’re in a race, I like the Bolt because it’s smaller and lighter, and I use the GPS simply as back up.
When you pick a route and have a GPS and even a breadcrumb to follow (the line it makes as you’re riding), you can’t get lost. For me, that has given me incredible freedom to Roam.
Here are a few ways I use the GPS feature on my ELEMENT & ELEMNT Bolt.
- Travel and ride anywhere – I look for rides on Strava using the search function. I search the town I’m in and filter for the mountain bike. I select a ride based on duration. You can create a route on Strava then push it to the ELEMNT companion app. Connect your ELEMNT to WiFi (via the app) and the route automatically loads onto the cycling computer. Don’t have access to WiFi? Select the desired route from the ELEMNT companion app and it will sync to your device over Bluetooth.
- Breadcrumb – If I don’t have a specific route planned but I want to explore, I can be confident that the line on the map page of my route will be able to get me home. I can go back the way I came and make sure I can find my way back.
- Along the Route – Sometimes I run out of water or food. If I pop out on a road, it can help me find where to go by using the Take me Anywhere feature. Just open the ELEMNT Companion app – select “Ride” – select “Route” – “Take me Anywhere” – search for coffee, food or anything else you may need. The route will sync to your ELEMNT and provide a bike friendly route to your destination.
- Pre-riding Race courses – Sometimes race courses aren’t marked until right before an event. A lot of events provide a GPS of the course, so I often use the map to go pre-ride the course before the course markings are up.
- The Check – The ELEMNT will alert you if you’ve gone off course which is really helpful in a race when adrenaline is high and it’s easy to miss an arrow.
- Pure Race Navigation – Last year, I raced the Joberg2C in South Africa. They didn’t mark the course at all. It was solely self-navigated using your own GPS. I used the ELEMNT for the 9-day race and felt confident that I would be able to race from Point A to Point B without any problems. Peace of mind is priceless.
- Distance to Finish – How much further do you have to go? It’ll tell you.
- Create Your Own Route – There are programs (Strava, Ride With GPS and Komoot) where you can look at a map and make your own loop to follow. If you want to have extra fun with this, have a friend make you a route and go follow it. Warning: you might curse your friend’s name during the ride, but it’s a fun adventure. (Been there!)
- The Climbing Page – If you have a route preloaded on your ELEMNT, the climbing page will show you where you are at on the elevation profile. So if you’re wondering, “how much longer is this bloody climb?!” You can see it!
Everyone has that little dream in the back of their mind – that thing they wish they could do someday. That thing where they say “If money was no option and I didn’t have to “work”, I would do X because it’s what I’m passionate about.” The empowering point is that it’s possible to do it and to make a career out of it. I’m just a normal person, but through hard work, self-belief, determination, moxie and grit, and a willingness to fail, I’ve been able to achieve extraordinary things. I’m an outdoor adventure athlete and American Pro Mountain Biker. I’ve raced my mountain bike in the Sahara Desert, Himalayas, tropical jungles, and mountain ranges in 25+ countries. I even became a World Champion in 2015. My passion is taking on the hardest and/or longest races in the world because it’s enabled me to learn more about myself and life so that I can help others.
My goal is to help people live better and feel more alive because, at the end of the day, it’s what gives our lives meaning!